Mid-market businesses remain ambitious and confident in their growth prospects, despite an unstable economic landscape, the impact of Brexit and an unsupportive funding environment.
This according to new research from law firm Mills & Reeve, based on the opinions of 500 leaders of medium-sized businesses in the UK.
In the months following the referendum last year, British businesses were increasingly adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, but this research suggests that businesses are past that now. 83 per cent of mid-market businesses plan to increase turnover in this financial year (2017/2018) by an average of 22 per cent. Two in three of the surveyed business leaders aiming to grow are even willing to bet their house on meeting this target.
This is may not be as big a gamble as it sounds. The survey also revealing that two thirds of medium-sized businesses grew turnover last year by an average of 20 per cent.
However, mid-market businesses face serious challenges to growth. 59 per cent of mid-market business leaders do not believe that the economy is strong and stable. Two thirds of mid-market boards are concerned that there is now a real risk of recession, and that economic uncertainty will disproportionately affect the mid-market.
“Despite very real challenges, it is encouraging to see mid-market leaders remaining defiantly ambitious about growth, determined to beat market conditions and to hold their position as the driving force of the British economy,” said Claire Clarke, managing partner at Mills & Reeve.
With single market access “critical” for 60 per cent of mid-market businesses, Brexit looms large on leaders’ list of concerns. Three in five mid-market leaders are concerned that the UK failing to reach an agreement with the EU would cause “significant damage” to their business, and 60 per cent are concerned that regions outside London will be disproportionately affected by Brexit.
More than half of leaders are concerned that implementation of Brexit is a serious threat to their ability to recruit both specialist and low cost talent. Additionally, the external funding needed to supercharge growth is also found to be lacking: almost three in five mid-market leaders say that their company can’t achieve its growth potential without better long-term finance options.
According to Clarke, it’s this lack of access to finance that is holding growth businesses back. “Accessing growth finance suited to mid-market needs is a significant challenge, and the unstable economic and political landscape is causing some businesses to refrain from making the investment necessary to grow.”
56 per cent of the surveyed business leaders stated that mid-market finance is not “fit for purpose”, with two thirds believing that the UK funding environment is great for start-ups, but not for mid-market firms.
“The mid-market is the unsung powerhouse of the UK economy, and we are hopeful that medium-sized businesses can continue to overcome the barriers to growth formed by uncertainty,” added Jayne Hussey, head of mid-market at Mills & Reeve.”The events of the recent past may have rocked the nation’s confidence, but the resilience, strength and ambition of mid-market business leaders appears to remain intact.”
The research goes on to reveal a perceived lack of support from government, with two in three medium-sized business leaders believe that the government keeps presenting obstacles to mid-market growth. Three-quarters cite a lack of targeted policy support, with 61 per cent concerned that Brexit will distract government from supporting regional development and infrastructure. Despite this, the majority of mid-market firms remain optimistic about their growth plans.